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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. HAVING LIVED IN SPAIN FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS I HAVE TRULY MANAGED TO IMMERSE MYSELF IN THE LOCAL CULTURE AND FEEL TOTALLY INTEGRATED. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT MY PASSION FOR SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AS WELL AS ITS CULTURE, PEOPLE AND PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.

Cold Soups to fight the Spanish heat
28 August 2020

Cold soups, like salads, are dishes I crave for in the summer months, so here are a few proposals that are slightly different from your standard gazpacho or vichyssoise. They are really easy to make so you can easily make them in advance and cool them in the fridge for later. 

 

1. //   This first recipe might surprise you because of its ingredients but its taste will also surprise you. Roasted peppers, watermelon and basil make a wonderful blend; the fruit brings a unique freshness to the dish. It is garnished with crispy croutons and boiled egg. You could also add Serrano ham or even ‘mojama’; salted fish. Roasted peppers and basil marry together perfectly but make sure the basil is fresh and the watermelon is flavoursome.

 

Roasted Peppers, Watermelon & Basil

 

 

To make the soup you will need:

Ingredients (4 servings) 
400 grams of roasted peppers (red bell peppers), 
200 grams of roasted pepper juice
250 grams of watermelon 
2 cloves garlic, 
Fresh basil,
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
Salt. 

Garnish :

4 eggs, croutons, extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar (optional). 

Make sure you have enough time to roast the peppers and let them cool down before making the recipe. To roast them, clean them inside and out but leave them whole and place them on a tray covered with tin foil and roast them at 200ºC for about an hour or until they are tender, turning them over half way through the cooking time.

Turn off the oven and leave them until they are cool then peel them, remove any seeds and recover the juice that that has been released by the peppers, this will help lighten the soup but maintain its flavour. Place the peppers and half of the juice in the blender. 

Cut the watermelon into cubes, remove the skin and seeds and add it to the peppers in the blender. Peel the garlic cloves, cut them length ways and remove the central roots and add them the blender along with several basil leaves, the amount depends on how much you like the flavour of this aromatic plant. So blend and taste.

Blend until it is creamy and add a trickle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend again to emulsify.  Now you can add the rest of the roasted pepper juice depending on how thick you want the soup to be. Add and blend until you get the consistency you want. Taste for salt and pepper and then store in the refrigerator. 

Make 4 hard-boiled eggs; cool them off in cold water. Peel the eggs and separate yolks and whites, grate the yolks and dice the whites to sprinkle on top of the soup.

Season the croutons with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of vinegar for a touch of acidity. Finally add a few leaves of basil before serving and a slight drizzle of Picual extra virgin olive oil.

 

2. //  This next soup is a Spanish classic; The Ajoblanco, which is like gazpacho or Salmorejo in that every cook has their own proportions and their slight differences but is unique in flavour and always a favourite. I like Ajoblanco with a slight thick and creamy texture, and that is how I am going to share it with you today.  This soup is believed to have originated with the Romans and I can assure you any garlic lover will be asking for seconds so make plenty of it.

Ajoblanco

 

 

Here are Ingredients (4 servings):

 ½ Litre mineral water
250 grams of peeled almonds (to peel them scald them in boiling water)
2 cloves garlic (not too large)
A piece of bread from the previous day (the amount needed will depend on the texture you want)
Sherry vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil  - Arbequina 
Salt. 
 

Again this a recipe that creates hardly any work and if you have a half decent blender you’ll get a velvety texture, however the real Ajoblanco was made with pestle and mortar, only to be done if you fancy a tough workout.

So to save time introduced into the blender the water, the bread, the peeled almonds and garlic, blend them and then emulsify with olive oil, adding it little by little. Finally add the sherry vinegar and salt. 
Taste and rectify accordingly if necessary and then pass the soup through a fine sieve. Cool in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Usually you can accompany the Ajoblanco with grapes or melon, however you can also garnish with anchovies or ham, eggs and a few drops of sesame oil, tomatoes or just with fish roe and a sprig of parsley. There is nothing written in stone so here you can leave your mark.

 

3. //  The last soup today is another recipe that uses melon. Melon goes very well with nuts and also with mint and peppermint, and if we add a touch of flavour with the crispy Serrano ham you can imagine that the combination becomes very interesting. So you must try this recipe soon while the summer is still here. 

 

      Melon, Almonds & Mint

 

 

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
 
 900 grams of Galia Melon
 120 grams of almonds (can be whole, chopped or ground)
 2 cloves garlic
 6 mint leaves (10-12 spearmint)
 Black pepper
 Salt
 40 grams of extra virgin olive oil

 

Garnish:

 Melon balls, cherry tomatoes, crispy Serrano ham bits, small mint leaves, extra virgin olive oil. 

 

Thoroughly wash the melon, dry it, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Make some melon balls using a Parisian spoon and put to one side. Next remove the skin and place the melon fruit, chopped up, into the blender. Peel the garlic, remove the central root inside and add to the blender, add the peeled almonds and mint leaves and finally salt and pepper. Blend into a fine and homogeneous soup. 

Add the extra virgin olive oil and blend into an emulsion. Keep the melon soup in a glass covered container until it has chilled.  When ready to serve add a cherry tomato and one or two melon balls a couple of mint leaves. Serve melon soup and garnish with almonds, a cherry tomato and one or two balls of melon, a few mint leaves, a sprinkle of crispy ham and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 


Well that’s it and I hope you enjoy these refreshing starters.

 



Like 1        Published at 18:55   Comments (5)


Alicante Crusty Rice - "Arroz con costra"
18 August 2020

Arroz con Costra is yet another great Spanish rice dish that is relatively simple to make and tastes delicious. Claimed to be from the Southern-Alicante/Murcia region of Spain, this rice dish is a perfect example of how different cooking techniques are blended between regions.

 

 

Alicante is one of Spain's best regions for rice dishes, after Valencia where the ever-famous paella originated. However this dish is an unusual blend between a casserole and a paella, and when including an egg crust, it makes for a very unique but traditional dish.

The name of the dish, 'Arroz con costra' derives from this 'egg topping' - 'costra' means ‘crust’ in Spanish when used with food. This is because when the egg is baked on the top of the rice casserole, it turns into a tasty crust that compliments the meal exquisitely.

In this recipe, it is customary to include a typical Spanish sausage called 'butifarra blanca'. This is a white sausage and is typical of Murcia and the Valencian Community. The sausage is white as it is only made from pork meat. However, if you can't find Butifarra blanca you can replace it with a similar white sausage. 

Similarly, chicken is used in this recipe but many traditional versions of the dish use rabbit so you can choose whichever you prefer.

The largest dish of Crusty rice ever to be cooked ever was made using 1,500 eggs, 100 kilograms of rice and 120 kilograms of rabbit. The dish, which provided 1,500 servings, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, helping immortalise the dish forever.

 

 

This is what you will need for 6 servings -  Crusty Rice with Spare Ribs and Chicken

Ingredients:

• ½ cup Olive oil

• ½ lb spare ribs, chopped

• 2 butifarras blancas, cut into 2cm thick slices (optional)

• ½ lb pork loin, cut into large cubes

• 6 chicken legs

• 1½ tsps salt

• 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped 

• 4 cups chicken stock

• 1 tsp sweet paprika

• 2 cups Spanish round rice

• 6 eggs, beaten

 

Preparation:

• Preheat the oven to 230ºC (450ºF).

• Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large (around 30 centimetres in diameter), deep casserole dish. Add the spareribs, sausage slices, pork and chicken and cook, turning as necessary, for around 10 minutes or until the meat is nicely golden brown all over, turning to a slight crisp.

• Add the salt and the tomatoes to the pan and mix well.

• In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and then turn down the heat, but keep it at a slight simmer. It needs to be hot when you add it to the rest of the dish.

• Add the paprika to the casserole dish containing the meat and tomato mixture and mix briskly to mix the flavour in. Then add the stock to the mixture and turn up the heat to high, bringing it all to the boil quickly

• Add the rice and stir the mixture to blend it with the rest of the ingredients, and make sure that it is evenly distributed throughout.

• Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 3 minutes without stirring.

Next, place the casserole dish in the oven and bake it for 10 minutes or until the rice has become soft and absorbed most of the stock. Pour the beaten eggs evenly over the surface of the rice and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the eggs forms a crust on the top of the dish.

• Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 



Like 2        Published at 17:58   Comments (0)


Seafood Popcorn - Can't get enough of it!
12 August 2020


One of my favourite starters is a Mediterranean classic and one that always gets ordered whenever we have a paella away from home: ‘Puntilla de Calamar’, unbelievably tasty, moreish and easy to prepare. I like to refer to them as "seafood popcorn". The reason we love it so much is not just because of its taste but also because it is a light starter that doesn't kill your appetite before a paella, which can often be quite a heavy meal.
 

 
‘Puntillas de Calamar’ are effectively ‘baby squid’ and are eaten all over Spain as a starter but mainly on the coast and normally they accompany rice dishes, as they are light and flavoursome. They are effectively like seafood popcorn and I just can’t put them down when I get going! With or without a little squeezed lemon, they are just fantastic. 

 


 
You will need for 4 people :


800gr Young Squid – “Puntilla de Calamar” (they reduce in size by around 50% when cooked)
Wheat flour - Tempura 
Bread crumbs (optional) 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt 

They are extremely easy to prepare and a few details need to be addressed to achieve the best results. Firstly you will need to clean and prepare the ‘puntilla’. This means removing the eyes, which we will then dispose of, and removing the transparent tough membrane that goes along the inner body, effectively like a backbone and it just slides out when you pull on it. Then we thoroughly wash and dry the puntilla.  This is the first of the key points that need to be addressed. If the puntilla are not dry the flour with go all stodgy and cause a real mess. So before we flour the squid, make sure it is completely dry.  

Now to flour the squid: You can use a sieve or a plastic bag, whichever you find easier. So place the squid in a bag or a sieve, salt them lightly and cover with flour and shake repeatedly, ‘tempura flour’ is best but any wheat flour will work. Here comes another trick, although it is not always done and using just flour will work just fine, a good trick to get a nice and crunchy squid is to blend the flour with bread crumbs in a 50/50 mix. This will give them that crunchy edge which I love. Notice we are not adding egg here, we don’t want a batter, of any sort. Once the squid is completely covered with the flour mix we need to deep fry.

At this point, we need to fry the floured baby squid ‘puntilla’. Lastly, it is very important to make sure the olive oil is very hot, but not smoking. You can test the temperature with a small piece of bread, if it browns fairly quickly, it's ready. The oil needs to be hot so the squid doesn’t soak up any oil and the flour crisps properly, so if you are doing a large batch be careful how many you put in the pan or the fryer as the temperature will drop if you place too many in at once so do them smaller batches and make sure you have abundant olive oil in the pan, so they can float. Once they are golden in colour, remove them and place them on kitchen towel. Dry them and serve immediately with a few lemon quarters.

 


 

 
So there you are an extremely easy starter. Now, this same technique can be used for many types of seafood such as Large squid rings – Calamari (as I explained in a previous blog post) or even large prawns for dipping.


Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 12:28   Comments (6)


Galician Style Octopus - A Great Tapas
05 August 2020

 

Pulpo a la gallega - Galician style octopus - takes us back many centuries, not because the recipe was the same, but because octopus has been consumed in this autonomous region for longer than we can count.

Octopus was one of the few types of seafood that was transported from the coasts to the interior towns and in fact it was far more appreciated in these towns than near the sea, as those had other products such as lobster, king crab and a great variety of fish.

When America was discovered many products appeared in the Spanish markets, including a fake spice obtained from some crushed red chiles, in Spanish they call it pimentón, in English: paprika.
Not only does paprika give a tempting copperish tinge, but it's also great for preserving food in those time before frozen products and easy land transportation. Now it would be possible to preserve the meat and fish products without problems of rotting, molds or even worse. 

But it wasn't until a few years later that pulpo a la gallega became and actual dish. Some 125 years ago, when muleteers went to cattle fairs, they bought large amounts of octopus and then they'd prepare it with olive oil and paprika. Quite simple.

The name in galician for pulpo a la gallega is "pulpo a feira" (fair style octopus) for a very simple reason. During the cattle fairs the farmers would buy or sell cattle, sell their farm products, etc, and buy groceries such as salt, sugar and other products they didn't have daily access to.

The trip to the town where the fair took place took a long time and most people would stay for lunch or dinner. Those who stayed near the fair venue could eat octopus (as we've mentioned before, it was a very typical dish in fairs).

The "pulpeiras" (specialized in octopus) would cook the animal in copper cauldrons and serve the octopi on wooden plates. It is said that the copper pot gives it an incomparable taste that it's impossible to obtain with any other material.

 

 

Today the story is a little different, we don't need paprika to preserve food, but in Galicia, which is still a largely rural region, it's possible to go to cattle fairs and eat pulpo a la gallega and watch the preparation process which has it's own special magic. The good news, it's also possible to prepare it at home. This is what you 'll need to do...

 

 

Pulpo a la Gallega | Galician Style Octopus

Ingredients (four portions):
1 octopus of 2 kilos
500 grams of potatoes
Paprika
Spicy paprika
Salt
Olive oil

Preparation:
If it's a fresh octopus first we must soften the octopus, there are two ways to this, you can either beat it with a wooden rolling pin until its texture softens or freeze it for two days and defrost it the day before cooking it in the fridge (put it in a bowl because it will release a lot of liquid)

Dice the onion and add it to a pan with water. When it begins to boil is time to add the octopus. Grab it's head and dip it in the pan three times. After the third time you put it in and take it out add to the pan permanently. Cook for 50 minutes

Once cooked remove the pan from the fire and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Using the same water in which the octopus was cooked, cook the potatoes (previously peeled and diced). While they boil dice the octopus in medium sized slices.

When the potatoes are cooked remove from water and add to a platter. We add the octopus slices on top.

The final touch is adding the olive oil and paprika and abundant coarse salt. 

So, pulpo a la Gallega doesn't present many problems and it always tastes great, however, it is said that all food is better when tasted in its source of origin. Should you ever decide to travel to Northern Spain, ask the locals for the best Galician style octopus in town.

 



Like 2        Published at 22:25   Comments (1)


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